SPENCER — The Blue Ridge Regional Airport has some hard-earned new cash to pay for improvements that will allow for more traffic.
U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on Friday announced the airport will receive $7 million in federal funds as part of a grant program.
“We applied a year ago when there was $1 billion available but didn’t get anything,” Airport Manager Jason Davis said. “Then Congress appropriated another $500 million, and we were selected to receive $7 million.”
The process was extremely competitive. “There were over $12 billion in application requests,” Davis said. “Out of dozens of airports in Virginia, only two were chosen to receive funding — the Reagan International Airport and us.”
The funding is earmarked to “enhance airport infrastructure” and will “support local airports as they help Virginians travel more efficiently,” according to a joint release from Warner and Kaine.
“A portion of Airport Road [State Road 698] near the airport will undergo relocation in order to make room for a terminal apron expansion,” Davis said.
A terminal apron is the airplane parking lot typically positioned in a convenient location for loading and unloading.
“The entire project will cost between $11 and $12 million, and the remainder of the money will come through normal funding sources like the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration],” Davis said. “The roadwork will begin in the summer of 2020 and is currently under design. We’ve already purchased the property and will move the road in order to make room for the terminal apron.”
The terminal apron is also currently in design. A draft shows the expansion will accommodate an aircraft as large as the Gulfstream V with a length of more than 96 feet and a wingspan over 93 feet.
In July 2018, Blue Ridge Regional Airport received more than $5 million from the FAA to reconstruct its 5,002-foot runway. That project has now been completed.
“Next we hope to extend the runway by another 1,000 feet,” Davis said. “Right now we average 30 airplanes a day that fly in and fly out. If we had the additional length, we could accommodate 50% more traffic. The runway [at the length it is now] is not long enough for much of that traffic.”
Air travel is becoming more common among the businesses in the local area and to the people who come to see them. “They don’t fly in to Greensboro; they fly here,” said Davis.
The Martinsville Speedway attracts a large amount of air traffic during race weekends. Davis said Primland Resort in Patrick County brings in a consistent and affluent clientele year-round, but more people are making Blue Ridge Airport their preferred choice.
“You can come out here on any given day when the weather is nice, a clear day, and watch aircraft takeoff and land all day long,” said Davis. “We have 49 individual hangars and 12 corporate hangars and they are all full. We have a waiting list.”
Another future expansion includes a row of new hangars to be built between the apron expansion and the relocated road.
“We are a gateway for Martinsville and Henry County,” Davis said. “We want to be able to serve the aviation needs of the area.”
The Blue Ridge Regional Airport is owned by Blue Ridge Airport Authority, created by the General Assembly to serve Martinsville and Patrick and Henry counties.